Question: How can you tell the difference between when Isaiah is speaking about the Lord and when he is speaking about the servant?
Answer: Whereas the Lord identifies himself as the God of Israel, the servant does not. Each refers to the other as a different person than himself. Yet, both suffer in the course of serving as saviors to God’s people. The Lord delivers them everlastingly from sin, whereas the servant delivers them physically from destruction at the end of the world. As a temporal savior, the servant prepares the way among all of God’s people for the coming of the Lord to reign on the earth.
Isaiah additionally identifies the servant under different personas and under pseudonyms that serve as codenames, revealing a prophecy within a prophecy. Although often referred to as God’s “servant,” he also appears as a new Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Solomon, and Cyrus as he fulfills many temporal end-time roles patterned after theirs. Each of these roles is temporal in nature and an integral part of implementing the end-time restoration of the house of Israel.
Although the Lord “took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7)—a proxy savior under the terms of the Davidic Covenant—he is never called a servant. Identified as the God of Israel and the King of Zion in the Book of Isaiah, his sufferings for the sins of his people pay the price of all salvation, spiritual and temporal. Isaiah names him his people’s “Salvation,” a divine attribute that he personifies. The name Jesus—yeshua in Hebrew—thus appropriately means “Salvation.”